This is not the way I usually spend my Friday night. As the rain beats down on a converted barn in East Sussex, I’m in the midst of a 90-minute Somatic Restorative session, lying on a yoga mat attempting to do ‘the wiggle’ with 20 other participants. This involves gently moving my head from the crown, pushing my chin down in order to to drive movement down my spine and all the way to my heels, and then reversing the process, while breathing in for six and out to a count of six, timed by a metronome. A clear voice says ‘now let that go’ and as I do I feel my muscles melt from steel tension into softness.
I’m at The Human Method Soothe Weekend, a Friday to Sunday game-changer of a retreat led by super-Queenager and founder of this unique technique, Nahid de Belgeonne, aka ‘the nervous system whisperer’, whose clients include actresses Jenna Coleman and Gemma Arterton, comedian Sara Pascoe who describes her as ‘a wizard at helping you unwind and relax.’
CEOs and Parkinson’s patients, who are amongst her other clients, agree and so do I. But exactly what is the Human Method?“What the Method is doing to your body,” Nahid explains, “is balancing out your parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system [your brain and spinal cord, which transmit messages constantly between them] which calms the brain and immediately reduces your levels of anxiety and stress.”
Nahid, warm, fun, glamorous in purple and has the kind of soothing voice that comes from the soul. There’s not an ounce of that yoga-teacher-patronising-soft-tone bollocks in her tone. Over an abundant vegetarian dinner that evening she explains more about how she has used her expertise as yoga teacher in multiple disciplines and combined gentle poses, expert breathing techniques, Feldenkrais, Pilates and Somatic movement, to help balance over-exerted minds and bodies. Everything she does is backed up by neuroscience, for example the regimented six-by-six breathing has been shown to reboot the brain to body connection and is used to help relieve the symptoms of PTSD.
Our weekend venue is gorgeous Fair Oak Farm in Sussex – there will be retreats in May in Kent and Suffolk in June – and our group includes some remarkable women. Plus one very un-phased man.
Many have known Nahid for years, but some are devotees who have never actually met her, having discovered her Zoom classes during lockdown and benefited from the way they soothed the constant anxiety we all struggled with. Jane tells me she had terrible asthma and in a matter of months, she was able to come off her meds, while 70 year old Caroline’s found, through doing private Zoom sessions with Nahid as well as group classes, she was better able to manage her chronic pain, thanks to the soft movements.
I’m here in an attempt to calm my racing mind, the constant flight or fight mode that I discover during a routine check is giving me high blood pressure. I’m on medication and whilst I’m not looking for a reason to stop it would be nice to have the tools to help myself.
Dinner is followed by another Somatic session, after which I crash asleep, still fully dressed, in my snug shepherd’s hut, complete with en-suite and kitchenette. I wake up to my alarm at 7.30am feeling oddly grumpy, and the group gathers, as requested in silence to avoid distraction from chit chat, for a two-and-a-half-hour morning class.
Nahid wakes us up slowly and talks us through the movements and yoga poses she wants us to do. It’s the beginning of an extraordinary process over the weekend; tensions in my body that have been there for years are released in a flush of emotions, tears, laughter and relief that it is, indeed, possible to let go of all that crap through improving the connection between your body and your mind.
As someone who had been in therapy for some time, I’d been increasingly doubtful that it was having an effect anymore. Nahid’s method means I don’t have to keep talking about myself, I can release all my pain, grief, you name it, by moving my body in the slow, measured way she instructs. It’s telling that Nahid often has referrals from psychotherapists who feel they and their clients have reached a bit of a block.
The two days are taken up with walks, massages, more teaching (over eleven hours during the course of the retreat), a lot of wonderful food, deep conversations over tea and cake and equally deep sleep. I admit to being found open-mouthed and drooling on the farmhouse sofa on Saturday afternoon.
As for the blood pressure, my monitor showed it was a bit high when I arrived on Friday; by Sunday lunchtime, as I’m about to leave, it’s bang on target. I’m calmer, happier, more positive about the future and I have the understanding and tools to keep myself feeling that way.
On the train to London I pay my deposit for the two night The Human Method Spring Reset Retreat in Kent mid-May (two nights, from £550) and am definitely eyeing up the four-night Suffolk The Human Method Four Night Retreat in mid-June (from £1350 per person)
Maybe you’ll come and join me. Or maybe you’ll take part in one of Nihad’s classes on The Human Method website or join her live Zooms, which are free for NHS staff. I would certainly recommend you do. Because for me, with the power of its soft, gentle movement, the Human Method has given me back my mind.
By Beatrice Aidin
Nahid is offering Noon readers a £75 discount for the June retreat The Soothe Midsummer Four-Night retreat Wednesday 21st – Sunday 25th Just mention Noon in the email when you make your booking. Discount available on bookings made before March 31st 2023